Having been promoted to the top life insurance agency level as Group Sales Manager and subsequently qualified as an Associate Member of the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance in 1989, Alfred Sek knew then that better prospects were in financial planning. In an interview with Top 10 of Malaysia, Sek talks about the company he founded, the intricacies of the financial planning business and his hopes for the future.
Inspired by the way America changed the life insurance industry in which agencies prioritised financial planning over selling insurance products, Alfred Sek, the Managing Director of Excellentte Consultancy Sdn Bhd, forged ahead of his peers in the 1990s, to obtain a professional certification and qualification in Chartered Financial Consultant course with the American College of Financial Services.
“After I completed my Chartered Financial Consultant certification in 1996 and Shariah-registered financial planner certification with the Malaysian Financial Planning Council thereafter, I set up Excellentte Consultancy in 1997. I wanted to do financial planning consultancy but I was way ahead of time as Malaysians didn’t know much about financial planning then,” reveals Sek.
“The reason why I set up Excellentte Consultancy was to train people on financial planning, how to become financial planners and to change the way we approach clients. The traditional approach is to create fear or to push insurance products to the client. But financial planners walk through the financial planning process with the client, understanding their goals, lifestyle, investment needs and risk appetite.”
Sek adds, “If you just sell an insurance policy, the client becomes a policyholder. However, if you sell advise on the financial planning needs of the client, you help him to achieve his dreams.”
As per Section 139 of the Financial Services Act (FSA), a financial adviser company has to be approved by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) in order to run a financial advisory business. The financial adviser representative has to possess minimum professional qualifications specified by BNM to ensure that they have the appropriate level of competency required to provide advice to consumers.
“There’s still a lot for us to do to increase public awareness and education about the role of financial advisers and the need for financial planning. Many people assume that financial planners are insurance agents. As financial planners, we provide independent advice to clients based on their financial and investment needs. We develop a strategy, and advise suitable financial products to optimize the clients’ insurance coverage and investment portfolio,” explains the Managing Director.
Excellentte Consultancy is one of the oldest financial planning companies in Malaysia. Among the significant milestones for Sek was forming the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) in Malaysia which is endorsed by BNM and Securities Commission (SC). By having the AFA, framework, guidelines and policies were established to regulate the financial planning industry which helped to improve understanding and communication among AFA members and the financial regulators, and most importantly, to grow and evolve the financial planning industry.
“In order to provide independent financial advice, we needed to have access to all the products from insurance, takaful and investment companies. Without the full range of financial products available to us, we’re not able to implement the financial plan for clients. We represent the clients’ interests and aim to provide them with the most suitable financial solutions ,” says Sek.
As a one-stop financial solution provider and part of the planning exercise, Excellentte Consultancy advisers review and analyse the client’s existing financial situation, investment and insurance portfolio, and current lifestyle. From the analysis, they are able to identify gaps in the client’s financial matters. For example, the client could have overlaps in insurance coverage, under-insured, over-insured or even wrongly insured. Post-evaluation, it develops and present financial planning recommendations to the client.
“To achieve financial freedom, we must have a plan. Financial freedom cannot be achieved overnight but it won’t happen without a plan,” Sek emphasizes.
“My aim is to drive Excellentte Consultancy to be the most professional, productive, and sustainable financial advisory consultancy in Malaysia. As part of succession planning, my sons have also joined me in the business to serve the new generation. Therefore we’re here for the long haul to help our clients achieve their goals…to achieve financial freedom,” says Sek with smile.